VOORHEES, N.J. – There’s more to not allowing power plays than meets the eye.
Sure, it’s always a good thing when a hockey team doesn’t have to play shorthanded. Statistics show that teams which win the special teams battle usually win the game.
But in the case of the Flyers, who have not allowed a power play in more than three games, it comes down to secondary issues.
Like preventing fatigue.
When players such as Sean Couturier don’t have to kill four, five or six penalties a night, the energy level for even-strength situations remains high.
Is it any wonder the Flyers are on a 7-0-2 run and have put themselves firmly in the playoff picture?
Couturier, for one, appreciates the fact that he can walk into a penalty-kill meeting and hear only crickets. There just isn’t much business right now and that’s a good thing.
“Energy-wise, it helps a lot,’’ Couturier said. “The less penalties you get, it’s less demanding. Those (shorthanded) minutes are tough to play.
“In the long run, down the road, it kind of catches up to you. It’s always nice to be disciplined, limit the penalties. Eventually we will have to kill some but if we can stay disciplined, it will definitely help.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol knows that fresh players are more effective ones.
“If you have to kill three or four minor penalties, you’re a little bit at risk,’’ he said. “When you get in that five-six range, now you’re draining the bench, you’re draining energy, you’re taking guys out of rhythm who aren’t killing penalties. There are a lot of things that domino off of that.
“Ideally you only want to have to kill one or two a night.’’
It’s pretty impressive the Flyers are playing with “fresh legs’’ this late in the season.
“We’ve done a good job of eliminating those (penalty) situations,’’ Hakstol said. “It’s helped us win games. Discipline is a big part of it. Stick penalties really don’t help you build momentum. . .(players should be) checking without having to reach in.’’
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald says all this is a byproduct of smart hockey.
“These past few games, if you look back through the tape, you’re not going to find many plays that are questionable,’’ he said. “There might be the odd one but I think we’re really doing a good job of moving our feet, making smart positions with the puck.
“Typically, you put yourself in bad positions defensively, that’s when you end up taking penalties. So I think that plays a lot into it right now.’’
Travis Konecny, who appeared to suffer an injury to his foot in Tuesday night’s game against Montreal, was declared probable for Thursday night’s game against Columbus. Konecny did not practice on Wednesday. That was good news for both the player and his coach.
“He’s had a real good year,’’ Hakstol said. “It’s no different than with anybody this time of year. You want to have everybody available. We’ll see on game day who is ready to go. Hopefully TK is part of that.’’
Jori Lehtera missed Wednesday’s practice due to illness. His status for Thursday is uncertain.
Mrazek fitting in
Goaltender Petr Mrazek, who was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night, took part in his first full off-day practice on Wednesday and is expected to start his first game for the Flyers against the Blue Jackets.
He said he’s developing some communication with his defensemen and that’s important in today’s fast-moving game.
Puck handling and movement are a part of that.
“I’m confident I can help the ‘D,’ I like to be involved behind the net,’’ Mrazek said. “Help the ‘D’ get the puck out of the zone. That’s important when a team chips the puck behind the net.
“If I can help the ‘D’ get it out, that’s awesome. You have to communicate with them.’’
Mrazek has been impressed with the Flyers’ ability to avoid penalties in recent games.
“If that’s going to continue,’’ he said with a smile, “that would be great.’’
Hakstol doesn’t want to put too much on Mrazek’s plate this early.
“Simple is better,’’ Hakstol said. “He just has to go in and play his game, all the basics are in place. He’s had a good opportunity here over a couple days to get a clear understanding of the basics.
“We don’t want to go any further than that. We don’t want to complicate things with too much detail. Just go in and play and he will be ready to do that.’’